It’s only fitting that since last week featured Michael’s awesome mom Madeline, this week’s Burn Notice brings back his wayward brother Nate (played oh so well by Seth Peterson)…and his new baby Charlie.
The rest of the family Westen has moved back to Miami, and Nate thinks Michael should turn the Charger into a “spymobile,” but Mike is not amused. In fact, he’s picked up on the fact that Nate’s wife is conspiciously absent. Caught out, Nate admits to his older brother that Vegas didn’t exactly agree with him, and he needs his family’s help to “stay straight.” Normally, these ne’er do well characters are so one-dimensional, but in Nate’s case we know him well enough for me to hope that he really does keep himself together.
Michael leaves to meet Fiona, who believes he needs a paper shredder to dispatch of all his baggage – at least the documentation thereof. He would argue with her, but he’s convinced they’re being followed. As it turns out, the guy he grabs is just a poor sap out with his young daughter. Whoops. It becomes clear quickly that our hero might be cracking: he’s not sleeping well either. Even the badass Michael Westen has his vulnerable moments.
The next day, Sam gives Mike a gift certificate for a massage at the local spa. If even Sam thinks you have a problem, you have a problem. As if that’s not enough, Nate wants his help. One of his friends has a problem with a loan shark named Carter, and the cops haven’t done anything about it. Carter has his eyes on Jessica’s prized family boat. “Half of you is better than all of most people,” Nate tells Michael, who is convinced to meet with Nate’s friend Jessica. It probably helps that she offers to pay them in frozen yogurt.
Michael meets Sam to check out Carter (that’s Wade Williams from 24 and Prison Break), and the two quickly formulate a plan. Back at home, Mike tells Fiona that he’ll use her new shredder to dispose of his old files that night, but she doesn’t seem entirely convinced.
Then he goes to Jessica’s shop, where he approaches Carter, pretending to be another loan shark that keeps screwing up the usual sayings (“squeezing juice from a stone,” for example). He convinces Carter that the other man needs him in order to get the boat out of Jessica’s father’s name and into his – and therefore into money. Carter takes Michael to meet his boss, who is a little harder to persuade, but eventually comes around.
Michael’s plan is to make Carter look like an undercover cop and get his boss to knock him out of the equation. To that end, he takes Nate with him to stake out the loan shark’s car, but is diverted when he realizes Carter and his buddy are about to set fire to a local motorcycle dealership. Leaving Nate to bug the car, he walks in to keep the owner from becoming barbecue. That night, he tells Fiona that Jessica’s boat has been successfully swapped out for a police boat, and she has all the accessories to make their bad guy look like a good one.
The next day, Michael goes back to ticking off Carter by referring to himself in the third person, which causes him to head back to his house…where Fiona and Sam just happen to be planting the incriminating goods. In an attempt to buy Fiona more time, Sam stages a near-accident with his car and picks a fight over it. Fiona is not thrilled that she breaks a nail in the process of a very close escape.
With everything in place, Michael, Nate, Sam and Jessica gather at Maddie’s house to listen to the transmission from the bug planted on the police boat. Carter and his boss are meeting on the boat, and Carter thinks he’s soon to move up in the organization. At least, until Team Westen screws with him a bit more. Michael approaches Carter’s boss, revealing that the boat is a police vehicle and claiming he has photos to prove it. Meeting them outside the police department is Jesse, who’s having a little too much fun playing a police clerk who turns over said photos. These convince the boss, who wants (very few) words with his right-hand man.
Unfortunately, in the resulting confrontation, Michael then gets a major shock: Carter really is a cop. He’s an undercover FBI agent. Michael has to quickly convince the boss not to shoot him, and then calls Fiona and Sam to break the news – and get their help. As Carter is loaded into the trunk of his boss’s car, Michael tells the agent that he’s also undercover and helps to loosen his bonds, allowing him to make a break for it at the first opportunity – which happens to be in Key Biscayne. While Sam and Fiona make contact with Carter, Michael decides to save Carter’s case for him, by convincing the bad guys that he knows exactly what to do. As they leave their office with all their incriminating documents in hand, more than a dozen cops and federal agents are there to meet them, with Carter right at the forefront.
When all is said and done, Carter shakes hands and makes up with Sam and Michael, who isn’t happy with how close he came to getting a good man killed. He goes with Nate to meet Jessica and tell her that she’ll be okay. For his trouble, Jessica gives him a card that entitles him to “free yogurt for life.” Awesome!
Nate pulls his brother aside for a heart-to-heart, revealing that when Charlie was born, he was too busy gambling. That was the moment that made him realize he was at rock bottom. He cautions Michael that he’s got an addiction of his own: to confronting the people that have burned him. “Maybe this thing with you getting burned isn’t over,” he says. “Either way it’s gonna hurt.”
That night, Fiona is upset that Michael hasn’t shredded things like he told her that he would. He’d rather sit up in the middle of the night looking for the next piece of the puzzle. It would, after all, be too easy for things to end as easily as they did at the end of last season, wouldn’t it?
“Mind Games” is an interesting episode because it comes with a great twist – one that’s a surprise but, when you think of it, makes perfect sense with everything you’ve already been shown. It’s not something the writers just pulled out of nowhere because it sounded cool. It also helps that they cast Wade Williams, who’s been both an associate of Jack Bauer (24) and a ruthless correctional officer (Prison Break). He’s played characters who are good on paper, but who have that darker or more antagonistic element to them, and that works perfectly for the character of Carter.
It’s also great to see Nate back – and a Nate that’s really changed, not the constant screwup that many shows would write him as. He’s a character that we’ve gotten to see grow, for better and for worse. It actually makes me pull for him to get his life together and learn from his past mistakes, and for a show with a huge family element (what with the evolving relationship between Michael and Maddie), it’s nice that the writers remember to involve the entire family. Watching the Westen family dynamic is one of those small pleasures of Burn Notice.
All in all, I’d call this a successful episode, only edged out by last week’s “Bloodlines” because of the phenomenal performance therein of Sharon Gless. Burn Notice looks like its fifth season is coming on strong.